Post Oak Little League 12s take District 16, look to Section 3 play
It was the breakthrough the Post Oak Little League 12-year-old all-stars had been looking for.
And because the 12s, directed by manager Mark Rome got it, they were set to play in Section 3 tournament July 11 (after press deadline) against the Northside National Little League out of the Aldine area.
After two years of reaching the District 16 finals, but falling to First Colony American, the 12s went 5-0 at their most recent District 16 competition, capping it off last Thursday night with a 6-4 win over First Colony to keep their hopes of possibly playing in Williamsport, Pa. in about a month alive.
“This group had lost to that First Colony team when they were 10 and last year when they were 11, so I’m sure that they were the favorites going in,” Rome said. “But the kids played very well. We only needed to beat them once to clinch it and the kids played very well in that last game. We got good pitching. We got some big hits. We played good defense. We never trailed in the game. It was a big break through for the kids and now we’re looking forward to the sectionals.”
In that win over First Colony AL that gave them the District 16 banner, Hayden Rome, Mark Rome’s son, hit a big three-run homer in the first inning to give his team a 3-0 lead. The manager said it was a big shot in the arm to the team.
“I’ve been doing this for many years, so I’ve learned never to get too excited when you get a lead on someone like that early, but it was a big hit for us, no question,” Rome said. “I do think it did take a little pressure off of us, and I thought we just played a good ball game. Our big thing in the district tournament was our offense. We scored a lot of runs and had a lot of hits. But they really held us down after that home run. That was the fewest runs we scored in any game, so I think it shows we pitched pretty well and we played good defense, which we really needed to do because we were facing their number one pitcher.”
Chris Hannon was the starting pitcher for Post Oak and got the win, going three innings and giving up three runs. Hayden Rome replaced him and went two innings, while giving up a run. Blake Fertitta, who had five home runs in the five games to lead the powerful offense, worked the bottom of the sixth inning and got the save.
“Those guys did a nice job,” the manager said. “First Colony has got some good hitters and they can hit the ball hard like we can, but all three of those guys did a nice job holding that team to just four runs.”
The Post Oak 12s scored 60 runs in its five wins and gave up 27. The 12s also clubbed 13 home runs with seven different players, led by Fertitta’s five, hitting shots over the fence. First baseman Ben Vaughan and Hayden Rome, who plays second when he isn’t pitching, each had two while center fielder Harrison Cascadden, middle infielder Cole Hammer, third baseman Phil Johnson, and right fielder Jack Thompson each hit one.
Catcher Michael McKean, pitcher-third baseman Andrew Alvarez, and left fielder Will Kunetka are the other players on the team and the manager said all have played a pivotal role in the team still having this opportunity to play.
He said like all the 12-year-old Little League teams across the country and the world still playing, the goal is Williamsport, but it’s not something you can obsess over or consume yourself with because there is a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of steps still to be climbed.
“Obviously everyone knows about Williamsport because that’s where all 12-year-old teams want to go,” Rome said. “But when we had our team meeting before the district tournament, I told the kids ‘We could talk about Williamsport right now and today and then that was it. We weren’t going to talk about it anymore,’ because we had too much to worry about just playing in the District 16 tournament because I think it’s one of the toughest in the country and just getting through it would be a big enough challenge that there wasn’t going to be time to think about anything beyond that.”
One of the teams in the sectional will be Pearland, which went to the Little League World Series just two years ago.
“We don’t know much about the teams at sectionals, but I know they’re going to be tough,” Rome said. “They’re Houston area teams. They’re Gulf Coast teams, so you know they’re talented. You know the coaching will be good and there’s outstanding parental commitment. So we played well at district, but I think we have to keep improving. I think we’re going to need to play even better than we did at district, because you’re talking about four district champions at the sectional tournament, so everyone is going to be very tough.”
The Post Oak 12s last won the District 16 championship in 2003 and have only won the district three times in league history.